Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Monster is Here

The first meaningful pitches of Matsuzaka's Major League career were thrown today, albeit it against Boston College. The eyes of the world were on him, and you could sense the buzz that emanated from the Florida Field of Dreams. NESN's feed was broadcast on NHK this morning and I sat with my coffee to see what "kaibutsu" would unleash in his first go around.

The first thing I noticed was the abject fear on the faces of the BC kids. That may be a little strong, but it was patently obvious that they were intimidated and flailed away at everything Daisuke threw at them. In general, breaking pitches and changeups led the BC batters, and we saw a number of mid-to-low 70s changes that simply fooled the amped up youngsters. The fastball was mixed in to keep them honest at around 92mph, and was very close to being on the black when he missed. I thought the first batter of the 2nd was out on a nasty low fastball that seemed to catch the lower part of the plate. Daisuke and Varitek shook off the disappointment and got him to bounce out weakly.

Had this been a test against Major Leaguers, I would have done a batter by batter analysis of his start, but these are overmatched collegiate ballplayers, of whom I know nothing. It has no value. Look for a more comprehensive pitch-by-pitch look at his next start. For this start to his MLB career there is only one last point to discuss. The interviews.

Matsuzaka did an NESN interview with a female reporter that I'm not familiar with. Nation fans will know, and I'd appreciate your help in filling in the blanks on these things as we go this season. The reporter led with a question about his performance that went something like, "You gave up a leadoff double and then retired the next 6 batters, what do you think about your performance." I think that's an atrocious question to ask anyone as a journalist, but I suppose some players would answer it with an interesting response. Asking a Japanese player that question is not all that different than asking him if he thinks he's the most handsome man in the whole wide world. By cultural imperative the only answer that a guy can give is "I did my best. I'll try harder next time." Matsuzaka couldn't even muster that. He stuttered, thought for what seemed like 30 seconds, stuttered again, and asked himself aloud, "Uh. What should I say about that?" Finally, he settled on the enlightening "Ma, yokkata desu ne." That translates to, "Well, I was okay."

The level of comfort that Daisuke has with the American reporters is clearly something he'll need to work on. He smiles, and giggles, and looks perplexed at the questions he's asked. The Japanese interview in contrast was far more enlightening, as his countrymen give him the type of questions he's prepared to handle. The most interesting piece of info that came out with NHK was that Daisuke feels his legs aren't in good condition yet. He said that he hasn't been able to throw as much as he wants, and feels he's behind where he should be.

The other question that NESN asked him was about how he felt the MLB strikezone compares with NPB. Another silly question. Home plate umpire Rust Batcher isn't even an MLB ump, as far as I can tell. Matsuzaka threw a total of 26 pitches in front of him, compared to 8 years of pitching in the NPB. Who writes this stuff? Terrible. Anyway, more good stuff to come!! Stay tuned.

11 Comments:

At 9:40 AM, Anonymous mouse said...

The female reporter was NESN's Tina Cervasio, and yeah, she's horrible. I don't know very many Sox fans that like her or her interviewing uh..."techniques" as it were. She asks really stupid questions of everyone. Her postgame interviews with Terry Francona last year were nearly always awful...it's rare that she ever asks an interesting, insightful question.

I want to like her too, because she seems so darn nice, but she's just not a good interviewer, and the language/cultural gap makes her inadequecies even more pronounced.

 
At 10:09 AM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

Thanks Mouse. Appreciate the info!

 
At 10:59 AM, Anonymous mouse said...

You're very welcome.

I never put much stock in ST games; to me they're just a nice way to get excited about the upcoming season. But it was pretty neat to finally see Matsuzaka pitching live in a Red Sox uniform.

Plus, I think the guy is going to give David Ortiz a run for "Best Smile on the Team." :)

 
At 12:57 PM, Blogger hellodaisukemeetcyyoung said...

mike, im realy sorry to make a post that has nothing to do with yoru recent article, but i have a question thats killing me...WHEN DOES DAISUKE THROW HIS GYROBALL???does he do it everytime he pitches? or does he only do it when he "feels" it? does he have good "control" iwth a pitch like that? its really driving me crazy and even with all your work youve done on it, im still lost....any words would be much help..and thanks for all your work on daisuke...your nto too bad for a yankee fan :)

 
At 4:40 PM, Blogger Mike Edelman said...

The MLB strike zone is a bit wider than the NPB strike zone, is it not?

 
At 6:56 PM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

I don't think so Mike. If anything, I'd say it's just the opposite. I think Japanese pitchers get the benefit quite a bit, while many MLBers get squeezed.

 
At 4:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tremendous Matsuzaka, Red Sox excitement,
reflects a USA-Japan series in WWII in neutral Sweden


BOSTON (20 Feb 2007) -- With the start of Spring Training and the first appearances with the Boston Red Sox of spectacular pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka – known as “Dice-K” – there is unmatched excitement among baseball fans in Japan and the United States.

But this is not the first time Boston and Tokyo have met on the diamond – at least according to “Jumpin’ Jimminy – A World War II Baseball Saga: American Flyboys and Japanese Submariners Battle it Out in a Swedish World Series” (published by iUniverse, Inc).

Based partially on historic events, this novel, by Robert Skole, a journalist living in Boston and Stockholm, tells the story of ball games played in the spring and summer of 1945 in neutral Sweden. Top-notch teams of servicemen of the two nations at war face off in a world series in a Stockholm replica of Fenway Park.

The American team is the 10-man crew of Jumpin’ Jimminy, a B-17 bomber that crash landed in Sweden. And over 100 US bombers did land in Sweden. The Japanese team is from a fictional submarine that went aground on Swedish rocks.

The series is organized by a baseball crazy Swedish major, who, as a boy, fell in love with the game seeing Jim Thorpe and Americans in demonstration ball games during the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. The Japanese submariners have been making meatballs of his Swedish amateur ball players. Now, the best ball team in the Eighth Air Force could show the Japanese some real opposition.

The American team is led by two Bostonians – the plane’s pilot, who had been an ace pitcher at Harvard, and a crewman gunner, the catcher, from Boston’s working class West End. As kids, they had often played ball on Boston Common. The Japanese team’s star pitcher has, appropriately, a submarine ball that astounds and dazzles the Yanks. He can pitch nine innings without losing a bit of his super-hot steam.

Before spring training and the start of the series, the Jumpin’ Jimminy crew spends the winter months at various “civilian” assignments – most of them sheer joy. Like the tail-gunner/shortstop -- the only black B-17crewman in the Eighth Air Force -- who speaks fluent Swedish, learned when he worked at a Swedish market in Chicago. He teaches his Swedish “cousins” how to create the absolutely best darn vodka on the moonshine market.

The Polish-American co-pilot introduces Swedes to kielbasa, made according to his family’s famous recipe. The plane’s radioman, an amateur preacher, goes on a revival tour, with two charming blondes as interpreters.

The pilot and bombardier end up working on secret spy assignments for the OSS. Meanwhile, the Japanese maintain their sub, wait for orders from Tokyo, and dine on sushi featuring whale meat brought in from Norway.

All in all, it’s a wonderful romp in a Swedish island of peace, both for the Americans and Japanese – until spring training begins and the first pitch is thrown to open the Series.

"You are not going to read another book like this one in your lifetime,” says Bill McDonald, former president, Military Writers Society of America, www.militarywriters.com.

The book’s author, Robert Skole, is a long-time American foreign correspondent in Sweden.

Skole has been on the staff of The Japan Times and has written for Japanese publications, including Nikkei Business. He has written a dozen books, mainly about Sweden.

He’s now one of Red Sox nation’s most excited fans, waiting to enjoy a version of his fictional story – with Japanese stars playing for Boston at Fenway Park

Please go to www.jumpinjimminy.com for reviews and more about “Jumpin’ Jimminy – A World War II Baseball Saga”.

The book is represented by Marty Shindler, of the Los Angeles based The Shindler Perspective, Inc.
( www.iShindler.com ).
The Shindler Perspective, Inc.
16060 Ventura Boulevard #105 - 246
Encino, CA 91436 - 4423
Tel 818.223.8345
Fax 480.247.4190
Marty@iShindler.com

# # #

 
At 5:52 AM, Blogger Mike Edelman said...

Interesting. I've never noticed a difference in strike zones myself watching the games but everything I've heard from analysts says that the MLB strike zone is wider. Guess you can't believe everything on TV, now can you?

 
At 7:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike,
Tina Cervasio was the butt of many jokes around RSN last season (her first with NESN) because of her horrible interview skills. No matter what language you speak...she is bad at interview. She grew up a Yankee fan...go figure. JUST KIDDING! (she has come clean about her yankee upbringing)

But seriously, Tina is bubble gum. A soft "feel good" type of rah-rah, "go Sox", tow the company line type of interviewer. If asking Dice-K "what do you think about your performance" is consider an "atrocious question" as you said...we are all in for some serious heartbreak.

What is gonna happen when the Boston Globe, NY Post, and Boston Herald vultures start asking questions? These reporters in the Northeaster United States are mean spirited and are just waiting for Dice-K to slip up. If he can't handle a softball from Tina C.,...he is in serious trouble.

 
At 8:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS The strike zone question was asked by Tina because most commentators on this side of the pond have mentioned that the MLB strikezone is "wider" than the Japanese strikezone. Dice-K himself has previously commented that he wants to take advantage of this fact by working the edges more.

But this does not excuse the fact that a college ump was working the game! Tina should have known that!

 
At 12:06 PM, Anonymous Dan Mullen said...

Tina Cervasio is better suited to interviewing 90 year old grandmothers, pink hat wearing sorority girls, and celebrity "fans" at Fenway. If you were hoping for hard hitting sports journalism a la Armen Keteyian or Jim Gray, you will be sadly disappointed. Cervasio is, as another poster wrote, a "bubble gum" pretty face that the new ownership has given us to make Red Sox games seem more like Entertainment Tonight than a baseball game. NESN used to employ intelligent guys Eric Frede and others to do in game interviews but apparently they weren't as easy on the eyes as Cervasio.

 

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